Introduction: The following proposal has been prepared after countless consultations with many Eritrean activists who were also thinking of similar initiatives.
The proposal was prepared with national concerns and legitimate issues that fall within the sphere of civil action; and it has avoided issues that are supposed to be the concern of political parties and which they should address and resolve.
The Task Force, the initiators of this proposal, believes that the time is suitable for Eritreans to fully own their destiny, to begin to respect one another, including their political parties, and to defend Eritrean dignity and independence with everything they own.
Eritreans have been reduced to a despicable state under the oppressive PFDJ regime and they lack a decent government that guarantees basic freedoms. Our self-esteem as Eritrean citizens is suffering from a cycle of intentional and unintentional blows that are encouraged by our current reality. It is high time that we created a different reality, our own reality, a new reality. We should stop playing by the rules of the timid, indifferent, and dispassionate reality of the past.
The Eritrean struggle has always been a chain whose one end is anchored in the reality of steadfastness, resolve, dedication of our parents and grandparents, while its other end has always extended to be passed over to the young. The chain of the Eritrean struggle should not be seen and identified by its individual links; it is one complete set of ever-extending links. An individual link does not substitute for the whole chain; and to be called a chain, the links should remain attached to each other. And we believe that is why the Eritrean struggle is a chain of POPULAR STRUGGLES whose links included all sectors, genders and age groups.
The following proposal, to quote one of the initiators, is “likely to be met with a great deal of skepticism by many Eritreans who have been inundated with them…[but] that is what makes [this] venture an ambitious project and a very challenging one.” To meet this challenge, all Eritrean groups, rights and professional associations, democratization advocates, dialogue and debate groups, media outlets, think tank and research entities, social media groups including Paltalk rooms and Facebook groups, are all invited to endorse this proposal and commit themselves to work in unison for an effective struggle.
A. The nature of Eritrea today is such that…
- Those living inside Eritrea are under the mercy of a police state and do not have a civil space to change their situation.
- Those who are outside Eritrea are so fragmented and disorganized that they are having limited impact as they struggle against the oppressive regime to affect the desired change.
- Most Eritreans reside in different geographical parts of the world, are scattered, and their activities lack coordination and they face challenges in forming formidable pressure groups.
- The primordial differences of Eritreans along religious, regional and ethnic lines that are perpetuated by the regime have damaged the Eritrean society so much that, so far, working together has proven to be difficult.
- Despite their knowledge of the oppressive nature of the Eritrean regime, many people still support it because of primordial relations, which the regime overtly and covertly encourages.
- Opportunistic behavior of many Eritreans who prefer to remain on the good books of the regime in order to maintain benefits, such as traveling and vacationing rights, plans to retire in Eritrea, to protect small investments, etc, and their emotional attachment to the regime has ruled them a liability to the struggle.
- The lack of knowledge of many individuals about the make up, culture and traditions of the Eritrean society has rendered them insensitive and an impediment to a wider cooperation among Eritrean activists.
- Lack of (or weak) commitment and resolve of many Eritreans to participate in the struggle has denied Eritreans the needed critical mass to succeed in their struggle for change.
- Dual loyalties, giving up on Eritrea because of acquired citizenship and better living standards in host nations, coupled with family responsibilities, have denied activists the opportunities to access the skills and resources of many Eritreans who remain on the sidelines and avoid joining the struggle.
- Lack of clarity of understanding of the nature of Eritrea’s totalitarian regime has resulted in some individuals intentionally and unintentionally advancing its goals and policies.
- Due to problems many Eritrean passport holders hold, particularly those who reside in Middle Eastern countries who have become hostages of the regime, and who are one “wrong move” away from deportation, they are incapacitated from publicly speaking out against oppression.
- The neglect of the destitute bulk of the Eritrean refugees who have been living in Sudanese refugee camps for almost fifty years (their numbers estimated at half a million people, and still increasing) has resulted in their inability to help the opposition in meaningful means since they live in perpetual want.
- The addition of thousands of refugees who languish in Ethiopian and Yemeni camps, many of whom have become victims of human trafficking and body-parts-smuggling rackets, which are run by Eritrean officials with the collaboration of Sudanese officials, has exasperated the psychological and moral damage of Eritreans.
- The Eritrean regime has managed to alienate Eritreans from their neighborhood and is denying them the chance to reach out to their neighbors to use their social and cultural extension: the regime has made the Arab Middle East no more than a cash generating market for labor export; while it made Ethiopia a mortal enemy; the Sudan an almost client state; and Djibouti an off-limits country.
- The presence of the opposition forces has been limited to Ethiopia only, and that fact has made the Eritrean opposition weak, under-funded and unable to explore other sources of support: in its twelve years of active presence in Ethiopia it has been unable to establish meaningful diplomatic relations through any of the dozens of NGOs, international organization offices and embassies that are found on every corner in Addis Ababa.
- The opposition camp is further weakened by the traditional inter-Eritrean exclusionist tendencies, its lack of political maturity, and the existence of some who seem to be hell bent on weakening the opposition.
- Lack of mechanism to curtail the ambitions of some who seem more inclined to focus on reinventing their political career, and to act as though they own moral superiority, and who disguise their sectarian views as legalism, constitutionalism, and rule of the law–while expressing bellied disdain for Eritrea’s diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic makeup; they shun ethnic and religious organizations yet practice the same monochromatic clustering habits under the guise of secularism; and use stalling tactics to impede the activities of the opposition.
- The frustration of Eritreans with the regime has given some apologists a wrong signal that the patriotism of Eritreans has waned, and the apologists have launched an aggressive campaign, and are pursuing it, to cast doubts on the very essence of Eritrea’s struggle for independence, by exercising selective moral outrage and expressing hostile views towards some members of the Eritrean community.
B. Despite all these weaknesses, many Eritrean individuals, organizations, and groups …
- Remain steadfast in the just cause of the struggle and refuse to give in to the regime’ policy of intimidation, coercion, and sabotages, and
- Resist all temptations, at a great personal sacrifice, to give up carrying the banner of freedom and equality despite the lack of recognition of their efforts, and
- Possess tremendous goodwill towards their country whose best interest they keep at heart, yet might lack the means to translate it to action, and
- Unfortunately, there are many who choose to remain disengaged, or drop out because they refuse the mudslinging of partisan politics.
C. With all the above in mind, and..
- believing that if realities do not help Eritreans in their pursuit of freedom and justice, and in their struggle to defeat an oppressive authoritarian regime, it is upon Eritreans to create a new reality and
- that an envisaged new reality cannot be created by staying timid, and by overlooking the feeling of indignity and political maneuvers by some exclusionary forces, and
- believing that if Eritreans are to break the shackles of servitude imposed by the cruel regime to regain their dignity and freedom, a more focused, resolute and dedicated struggle is needed, and
- though many initiatives to improve the situation of the opposition have been tried, unity of purpose and physical unity has alluded Eritreans for too long.
An Ad Hoc task force (ATF) has taken the above challenges and is embarking on a formation of a coalition of Eritrean forces of good will to pursue their goals of freedom and justice in a unified manner.
D. In doing that, the ATF notes the following:
- by taking advantage of the environment of freedom that has been created in our region, and
- by being inspired by the heroic struggles of the Egyptians, Tunisians and Libyans in overthrowing their tyrants, and
- being more inspired by the heroic struggle of the people of Yemen and Syria to fight dictatorships, and
- believing that Eritreans have been in the business of struggling against injustice the longest part of their life as a nation, and they should not be left as gazers when everyone around them is seriously fighting for their freedom, and
- since all means have been tried to persuade the power bases of the Eritrean regime to cease being enforcers of its unjust and destructive policies; but persuasion time has limits and that limit has long been reached, and
- since a lot of time and emotions have been invested in the political supra-structure of Eritrea (the ENCDC: and it is the only broad-based, duly elected body) which is expected to fulfill the mission it was entrusted with, if it prevails over its growing pains, and
- since enough time has been wasted to appease this and that party, and this or that interest group, and since it is obvious that the general public has not been satisfied with the performance of our common struggle for the last twelve years.
- It is understandable that the ENCDC has been hindered by certain realities (similar to its predecessors), and thus, changing those realities, or creating new realities with confidence and by relying on the Eritrean people and their own resources first, and friends and allies second, is the best strategy to pursue.
E. The Ad Hoc Task Force (ATF) is taking this initiative of creating an all-inclusive Eritrean Global Civil Coalition (Eritrean Coalition, for brevity) to address the above issues and help in the goals and tasks outlined below.
- Bring into a common understanding an all-willing global community of individuals, organization, and groups of diverse activists.
- Form a coalition that does not base its operations on a traditional pyramid structure but on a flat organizational one.
- Establish a totally project-oriented system for achieving Eritrean activists’ goals through collaborative and coordinated efforts.
- Maintain the autonomy of member entities who will be fully responsible for, and lead and manage the projects that they initiate and assign roles to sister members of the Eritrean Coalition.
- Reject temptation to change the coalition into a monolithic organization by shunning bylaws, constitutions and the like, and instead be bound together by a memorandum of understanding to pursue a common goal.
- Promote an honorable set of ethics (code of honor) that would ensure integrity, steadfastness, determination and clarity, on top of a culture of activities and tasks that are result oriented and measurable.
- Invite all willing Eritrean entities to endorse this initiative and rally behind it, and strengthen it.
- Eritrea is a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious country, and
- The territorial boundaries of Eritrea are as finalized by the UN-empowered body and subsequent border lines as defined by internationally recognized bodies between Eritrea and both Yemen and Ethiopia; with greater sensitivity towards people before land, and
- Eritrean rights are based on citizenship and all Eritreans have equal rights and obligations under the law based on a constitution that would be approved by a democratically elected body of people’s representatives, and
- The PFDJ regime is an illegitimate, unelected authoritarian regime and the role of Eritreans is to struggle in unison to free the people from the oppression of the regime, and
- Land is the property of the people, and Eritrean activists advance the cause of the different segments of the Eritrean people to have an autonomous rule over their ancestral lands, and
- State ownership of land is not recognized and Eritrean activists will strive to rectify this unjust confiscation of Eritrean land, and
- Recognition of full religious freedom of Eritreans, and upholding the freedom of expression and association, and
- The Eritrean Coalition is non-partisan and advances the above causes and issues that concern the whole nation, and
- Does not recognize or endorse in any way the PFDJ’s social engineering proclamations, and
- recognizes the right of return of all Eritrean refugees scattered all over the world against their will, particularly those who are taking refuge in Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia, and the re instituting of refugees in Sudan to their ancestral lands, and
- Struggles to support Eritrean refugees from predatory criminal rackets in their search for a free life after escaping from the shackles of the Eritrean regime, and
- Condemns the jailing of many Eritrean political and religious prisoners including Abuna Antonios, the teachers of Muslim religious schools and other prisoners of Christian sects.
- Will cooperate with any entity that recognizes the above goals.
- To have the ability to pool the resources of many associations and establish a strong public pressure and support force.
- To work globally in a coordinated manner to advance the cause of freedom and justice for Eritreans.
- The coalition is non-partisan but constituents of members organization reserve their right to be members of any political organization.
- The coalition is not a political party and is not set to be a vehicle for ascendency to power and, as a coalition, it doesn’t get involved in partisan power struggle.
- Members can specialize and focus on one or more of the above issues as their choice of struggle.
- Members are not required to change their mission as long as it does not contradict with the general goals of the Eritrean Coalition.
The following will be the immediate task of Eritrean Coalition
- create/consolidate a writers and media union
- Create/consolidate a lawyers union
- Create/consolidate an artists union
- Create/consolidate an association of IT professionals
- Form an international relations unit
- Form an inter-Eritrean public relations unit
- Form a standing committee of elders as an advisory body and to resolve conflicts
- On top of the day to day activities of the member organizations that could be local or global, the Eritrean Coalition will focus on bigger projects for wider global reach.
- The joint global projects will be financed by member organizations.
- Organizations will be encouraged, supported and pushed to increase their individual membership base and improve their activities to be more effective.
- Political issues will be resolved among the political parties of the opposition and the Eritrean Coalition cannot support or be partisan in order to remain true to its non-partisan nature.
- The Eritrean Coalition will support the ENCDC in all its capacity and demand from it acceptable performance and delivery.
- The Eritrean Coalition will also advise, criticize and pressure the ENCDC towards perfection.
- The Eritrean Coalition is determined to safeguard the rights of Eritrean institutions as best as it can.
- The main projects of the coalition will be to improve the delivery of individual member entities in a manner that would reflect positively on the overall effectiveness of the Eritrean Coalition.
- The Eritrean Coalition will pool resources to help communities develop organizational and operational skills and capabilities as well as provide training in leadership, conflict resolution, organizational management, fundraising, social media and on-line presence, by conducting workshops, seminars and webinars to promote a robust culture of resistance.
- For the interim period of 1 year, ATF will oversee the development of the Eritrean Coalition in a coordinating capacity while individual members carry on their activities with more resources and help from sister members who will lead and manage projects that they initiate.
- An example: a project initiated by a member organization in Sweden will be led by that very organization while the rest of the coalition will play a supportive role as specified and assigned to them by the initiators.
- The coalition is open to expansion and membership is open for all non-political Eritrean associations.
- The Eritrean Coalition will have the following sections, and each joining member will identify its field of specialization for the sake of focus and efficiency:
- Research/ Think tank
- Rights Groups
- Media Groups
- Community centers
- Religious groups
- Democratization groups
- Audio Visual Debate and Dialogue groups (Paltalk, Youtube channels.)
- Social Media groups (Facebook, etc.)
Draft dated: June 22, 2012
NB: So far there are several entities that have already endorsed the proposal including Mejlis Ibrahim Mukhtar.